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Believe None of What You Hear and Half of What You See or Adventures in Flax

I’ve had a bag of flax in my large fibre box for quite a few years.  I found the reputation for flax being a difficult fibre to spin proceeded it and I don’t have a distaff so my bag of fibre remained neglected.

It has been the dyeing of this beautiful yarn that peaked my interest.  This is a baby alpaca/silk/linen mix, it takes dye so readily and has a beautiful sheen due to the silk but it’s the linen that I wanted to experiment with, especially with weaving.

Flax Tow

Well you know how these goes, the yarn is dyed and I love it so its partially woven and is at Ten Streets waiting for me to finish it, wait, what’s that? It was the Tour de Fleece and the challenge of spinning something a little bit out of my comfort zone. Well the alpaca/silk/linen was so beautiful, I wanted to spin my own linen, so the ancient bag of flax fibre was retrieved from the box.

What is flax tow?

It turns out that there are two types of flax, line or sticks which are really long fibres and require a distaff or flax tow, shorter, coarser fibres that are more easily dealt with.  I had flax tow.  So anyone who has had experience of spinning with will should be able to get to grips with flax tow.

The direction is to wet your fingers, the flax is floaty and gets everywhere. I’ve spun with both wrt and dry fingers and I’m sure the wet in better but I’ve not always been bobothered.

How to spin flax?

I found the best way to spin it was to split the length of flax into very thin sections, when drafting, full the fibres until they are very thin, that drafting triangle will be very see through! This way your yarn will be nice and thin when you’ve plied it.

I also read that it can be helpful to spin with your wheel going in the s direction (anti clockwise) but I only read this after I started spinning z wise so I’ll attempt that maybe next time.

So my first ball of yarn was pretty thick while I  got my head around the technique.

Flax spun worsted, z twist, 26wpi for the single 16wpi for the piled yarn.
16 wpi plied flax yarn
Plied flax yarn
Woven yarn 16wpi

Flax has no elasticity so very different to weave than a wool yarn so you would need to take that into consideration if you’re weaving for a project but as this is for experimental purposes I used mainly plain weave with a litt,e bit of Brooke’s Bouquet thrown in for interest.

Actually, the fabric was like hessian! Not really sure what I would do with it.  Also, the sample piece was way to long  a small square section of fabric would have been much more useful.

The second attempt was 34 wpi as a single, 19 wpi as a plied yarn

19wpi plied flax

My third attempt was 45 wpi single, 28wpi as a plied yarn, I vlet much more confident to draft really, really thin at this point.

28wpi plied flax yarn

So I’m weaving with this last yarn using a 10dpi Reed and will see how it weaves up in plain weave.  I’m completely addicted.  If you’d like to have a go and I recommend it wholeheartedly, get some flax here and give it a go.

Just because someone tells you something is difficult, may not be the case after all.